SOURCE: National Watermelon Promotion Board

March 15, 2010 08:00 ET

The Happy Diet

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - March 15, 2010) -  (Family Features) Most people recognize the link between what they eat and their physical health. But many don't know that there is a link between what they eat and their mood. Literally, says Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D., what you eat or don't eat for breakfast can have an effect on your happiness quotient by afternoon.

The effects also are cumulative: eat the right foods for months, years, decades and you will be that much happier and mentally sharp in the years to come. In short, follow these tips that come from, "Eat Your Way to Happiness," the latest book by Somer, and she promises you will say, "I never knew I could feel this good!"

Feel Good Tip #1: Eat breakfast
People who eat breakfast have more energy, a more sustained good mood, they perform better at school and at work, and they sleep better at night. They also are less prone to food cravings, have an easier time losing weight and maintaining the weight loss. But, Somer is not talking doughnuts and coffee. You must follow the 1,2,3 rule. The breakfast must have:

  1. a whole grain to provide needed high-quality carbs for the brain during the morning hours
  2. a little protein to keep you satiated and maintain even blood sugar levels throughout the morning
  3. one, preferably two, colorful fruits and vegetables.

Somer's favorite is as a bowl of whole-grain cereal topped with berries and low-fat milk, and served with sliced watermelon. Or, a morning smoothie made with watermelon, lemon yogurt, and dash of ground ginger, served with whole-grain raisin bread.

Feel Good Tip #2: Keep lunch light and low-fat
Not only will a heavy lunch leave you groggy, but eat too much fat mid-day and it turns on a brain chemical, called galanin. According to research from Rockefeller University, the more fat we eat, the more galanin we produce. People who eat a fatty lunch are likely to eat more calories later in the day compared to someone who eats a low-fat lunch. You definitely need some fat, like the healthy fats in nuts and olive oil and the omega-3 fats, but don't go overboard.

A light, low-fat meal helps you stay alert through the afternoon hours, boosts energy, and fills you up without filling you out. An example would be a turkey breast sandwich on whole wheat piled high with spinach leaves and served with a glass of low-fat milk and a fruit salad or watermelon, orange slices and pineapple.

Feel Good Tip #3: Include super mood foods
Somer says that it is a style of eating, not just a few foods, that will stack the deck in favor of feeling great. The 10 secrets of happy people discussed in her book include habits, such as focusing on "real foods" not processed ones, cutting back on the quick fixes, and keeping meals light. If you are following those guidelines, then adding super mood foods gives you an even greater nutritional bang for your buck.

Super mood foods are ones loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidant-rich phytonutrients, while being moderate in calories. A perfect example is watermelon, which is higher in lycopene than are tomatoes, and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, and C. Better yet, watermelon is 92 percent water, which means it is a natural hydrator, and it contains two amino acids, citrulline and arginine that maintain blood vessels in the body.

Photo Courtesy of Getty

Multimedia